Author: Lay Hing de Kort-Yee, Chief Purpose Officer, MSc. in Finance
Introduction Aruba and its childcare system
Before Covid-19 many families depended on childcare centers to take care of their children during working hours. At the same time, many childcare centers already struggled to run and operate their schools, especially considering the relatively high cost of quality care, which is often out of reach for working families. Childcare centers often operated on thin profit margins.
A study conducted by Caribbean Reality Studies in 2009, shows that at least about 51 percent of Aruba’s children (0 to 4 years of age) stayed at a childcare center. This shows the importance of childcare for many of these families. According to the study at least 200 florins is paid per month per child for childcare.
Those childcare centers that try to abide to good quality of care, and comply to the quality standard ratios reflected in the number of children versus number of staff (as indicated by law: “landsverordening kinderopvang”), and are trying to maintain affordable prices, are the ones that most possibly experience the challenges to maintain reserves and to keep operations afloat.
In other countries, childcare is fully or partially subsidized by the government to ensure quality of care. In Aruba, this is not the case, which means that childcare centers are mostly private entities providing social essential services to families in the best way they are able financially. And few companies understand the importance of childcare for the well-being of their employees. An example of a thoughtful company is Metacorp who facilitates its employees with childcare allowance.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these childcare centers, are not able to survive a closure without significant support. Aruba’s childcare system was already unregulated and operating with great financial pressure, and now with COVID-19, the situation might be even more challenging for these centers.
The question then is, when most of Aruba goes back to work, what will happen with the childcare centers? Or does this new normal entail a new way of taking care of our children?
When Aruba goes back to work, and childcare resumes, will we have the childcare centers ready to welcome our children?
Business tips for childcare centers
In spite of all this, childcare centers are asking themselves the question how we can cope with COVID-19 and prevent centers to shut down and lose business.
With this mind, childcare centers, as a social enterprise, more than ever need to have a mindset of courageous leaders. Childcare centers are vital to businesses, because employees of these businesses and their children need them.
At this moment, most parents and children are not receiving the usual services that they are used to, so in order to be able to maintain the childcare center, as owner(s), it is important to continue adding value to the children and parents, in order to keep your inflow of cash, which is usually in the form of fees paid by the parents.
Management of childcare centers are asking parents to pay the fee, even if the children are not there, this is not often the most strategic and effective business strategy.
Now, how to go about this?
1. We are in the same boat, know your client:
It is important to understand that at this moment most of us are in the same storm, which means parents (whom are the paying clients) are also having it difficult financially or are anxious about the current situation. As care providers, try to think how you can tap in the needs of your clients at this moment. It might entail some out-of-the-box services that you might have not been offering before, for example; support, mentoring or therapy to parents. You know your clients best, find a gap or a need that you can fill that can add value, and sustain a reason for parents to continue paying the fees.
Just because the child is not attending school, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue communicating with the child and their parents. As any other business, showing your clients that you care translates in added value. You can use any of existing mediums of telecommunication or online to do so (such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, WhatsApp etc.). It is important to maintain an open and honest communication between parents and caregivers (two-ways). If you are doing some maintenance or revamps, while children are away, share this with the parents, so that they have something to look forward to.
3. Redefine childcare:
Ask yourself how can you continue providing parents and children a taste of your usual programs? Review and analyze your school’s program and curriculum, are there things that you can create and provide to parents so that they can do with their children? Think about a school package per week with materials and instructions that parents can do with their children at home.
Now it is a good time to do your school’s administration. Make a budget and focus on managing your cash flow. This needs to go hand in hand with continuous product development. The key question is: how can I continue adding value to my clients? Cash flow will depend on the ability of your clients to pay, the service provided to the clients, and the willingness of your clients to pay for the new or substituted services offered.
Childcare centers, as agents of social change
Childcare centers, especially in Aruba are typically classified as private businesses. Though we know that childcare centers are not the typical business, but are social enterprises; that try to leverage on commercial practices, while offering a solution that helps develop a responsive, progressive and effective provision to support the whole family. The actions of a childcare business matter for the children pre-COVID, but even so during and after-COVID. By looking at how you can adapt your business with substitute services, you can maintain that relationship with your clients, that will be needed after all this has passed. In the meantime, as parents lets support these social enterprises where possible.
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